Living In Hong Kong Schools Schools

A day in the life of an international school teacher

By: Melissa Stevens

They are among the most influential people in our children’s lives and play a key role in shaping the type of people they’ll grow up to be. But what’s a teacher’s job really like? Grade 5 teacher Shari Postemski shares some insights into life behind the school gates at Stamford American International School.

Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Shari says she was attracted to the opportunity to be involved in a new international school in Hong Kong when Stamford opened its doors last year. “When I heard that Stamford was hiring, I was excited to be considered for the opportunity of being part of a team working from the ground up,” she says. “After interviewing with Malcolm Kay and then Karrie Dietz, I knew that this school would be a great fit for me, and it has been.”

“Although moving to the other side of the world has been challenging, coming to work at Stamford American has been a wonderful decision. I couldn’t be more thankful that I’m working with such an amazing staff and such a fabulous fifth grade team!”

international school teacher Shari Potemski in the classroom
Shari loves witnessing the “aha” moments with students

What do you love about teaching?

Being present when a student understands something for the first time and you are privileged enough to witness that “aha” moment. It’s very rewarding!

What’s the most common misconception people have about teachers?

I think one common misconception is that we have a 40-hour per week position. Teachers are known for not only planning and revamping lessons to make them the best lessons they can be, but we’re also always thinking about our students and how we can enrich their lives. Teaching isn’t just about academics, it’s about nurturing students, consoling students and in the end ensuring that they’re working at their full ability. In saying this, teachers on the average work 50 to 60 hours per week. I think all teachers strive to have their students grow up to be responsible, engaged and happy citizens of their community.

Describe a typical day.

A typical day for me begins at 7am with a quick cab ride (sometimes too quick, if you know what I mean!) to school, and straight into the classroom. I teach period one, which, depending on the day, is science, math enrichment, Second Step (the social/emotional program SAIS uses) or Unit of Inquiry.

I then have a planning period with my grade level (another fifth-grade teacher and our assistants). Our English block runs from 9am to 11.30am, which consists of a read aloud and
discussion, stations, writing, literature circles and a grammar lesson. This is always my favourite part of day!

At 11.25am we head down to the canteen for lunch, then the students have a recess break. During recess I correct papers, plan and sometimes offer extra help to those students who are struggling in a certain area of study. From 12.30pm to 1.15pm we have either math and/or Unit of Inquiry, and our day ends with either Unit of Inquiry or specials (art, music, PE, Drama or STEMinn lab).

After school, I work on future lesson plans, correct papers and prepare for the next day. As I walk to the bus after school around 5pm, I often reflect on the day and what went well, and what I can tweak to ensure future successful lessons.

International school teacher Shari Postemski
Teaching is about more than just academics, Shari says

What happens after the kids leave for the day?

When the students leave the classroom at the end of the day, I meet with my teammates to plan what we need to do to prepare for the next day’s lessons. One day a week we also hold a grade level “check in” meeting and on a different day I meet with the other Grade 5 teacher to map out the schedule of lessons to be taught in the upcoming weeks as well as to reflect on changes that are necessary to be more successful for the coming year.

What’s the biggest challenge as a teacher and the biggest highlight of your job?

The challenge of my day is simple: time. Often, at the end of the day, I feel like I didn’t cover as much curriculum as I wanted. Accomplishing a full day of academics is a challenge, yet, it’s also often one of the highlights of most of my days. As we are working, we are often sharing thoughts, ideas and strategies which takes time, but it’s so rewarding to be a part of. Seeing students grow academically as well as emotionally and socially is the highlight of any teacher’s day and/or school year!

Written in collaboration with:

Stamford American School Hong Kong

25 Man Fuk Road, Ho Man Tin

2500 8688 |

Find out more about Stamford American School’s personalised approach to learning and its approach to learning Mandarin